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Wednesday newspaper round-up: Energy bills, Pret A Manger, BT, Evergrande

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Ministers are considering ways to cut energy bills for the poorest households amid soaring gas prices as analysis suggests a typical low-income UK family will be £1,750 worse off by next April. On Tuesday Boris Johnson brushed away worries about a wider cost of living squeeze and shortages this winter, saying “Christmas is on”. But government sources said there were concerns, with discussions already under way about whether to extend or raise existing discounts on energy bills available to those on the lowest incomes, with prices set to rise by an average of 12-13% – or £139 a year – from October. – Guardian

Pret A Manger hareholders, including its co-founder, Sinclair Beecham, are pumping £100m into the company to fund expansion despite losses ballooning to £256m during the pandemic. The coffee shop group is planning to open more than 200 UK and Irish stores over the next two years, expanding into the London suburbs, regional cities, retail parks and, through franchise deals, into travel locations such as railway stations and motorway services. – Guardian

Several small UK energy suppliers have stopped accepting new customers in a sign that Britain’s energy crisis is deepening. Igloo, Green and Ampower are all closed to new business, according to notices on the companies’ websites. Several energy suppliers have gone out of business already this year as gas and power prices surged to record highs. – Telegraph

BT is in talks to sell its sports broadcasting wing to a streaming service owned by billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik. The telecoms giant could strike a deal with DAZN within weeks, drawing a line under a costly foray into pay-television, according to the Financial Times. – The Times

The founder of the Chinese property conglomerate burdened with $300 billion in debt has vowed to lead the company out of its darkest moment as it teeters on the edge of collapse and threatens to send shockwaves through the country’s property and banking sectors. Hui Ka Yan has written a letter to his employees in response to the crisis. Evergrande, one of the country’s biggest companies, is faced with imminent deadlines to repay debts after it borrowed heavily to finance its rapid expansion. Analysts at S&P Global, the credit ratings agency, expect that a “default is likely” from Evergrande later this week, when it is due to make interest repayments on some of its loans. – The Times

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